Missing woman's father-in-law charged with voyeurism, child porn

Missing woman's father-in-law charged with voyeurism, child porn »Play Video
A handcuffed Steve Powell is led into the Pierce County Jail by a sheriff's deputy on Thursday, September 22, 2011.
PUYALLUP, Wash. -- Steve Powell, father-in-law of missing woman Susan Powell, has been arrested and charged with voyeurism and one count of child pornography.

Powell, 61, was arrested at his Puyallup home on Thursday night.

Prosecutors say the 14 counts of voyeurism and one count of child pornography are not related to the disappearance of Susan Powell, but the evidence was seized during a recent police search of the home where Steve and his son Josh Powell live.

Several computers, digital media, recordings and photographs seized from Steve's bedroom contained "thousands of images of females being videotaped without their knowledge, including Susan Powell," according to court documents.

Some of the victims have been identified as children who used to live near Steve Powell.

"We found many pictures of young girls as young as, we believe, 7 years old in explicit positions," Pierce County sheriff's spokesman Ed Troyer said, adding that the photos appeared to have been taken through a window from outside the home with a telephoto lens.

"They're pictures he shouldn't have taken - pictures of girls in showers, on toilets, in the bath. He's basically a peeping Tom with high-end camera equipment."

Rebecca Stover of the Pierce County Prosecutor's Office later said in a statement that some of the images and videos were organized into subfolders, including “Taking bath-1,” “Taking bath-2,” and “Open window in back house.”

In these subfolders there are images of two girls who were as young as 8 and 10 years old at the time of the recording. The girls are unclothed and taking a bath, using the toilet, and getting dressed or undressed, Stover said.

In many of the images the photographer zooms in on the girls’ breasts, buttocks, and genital areas, Stover said.

When contacted by law enforcement officers, the mother of the young victims identified her daughters in the images. She explained that she sometimes left the blinds open in the upstairs due to the heat. Crying, she said that she never thought someone would be watching and photographing her daughters.

Investigation with the Pierce County Sheriff’s Department determined that the victims lived next door to Steven Powell from June 2006 to August 2007. Steven Powell’s bedroom window faces the side of the victims’ residence and the line of sight matches the camera angle seen in the videos, Stover said.

Detectives seized 8mm video tapes, VHS tapes and CDs that also contained images of women and girls taken in public, according to the statement of probable cause. "In a majority of the images the photographer focuses on the intimate parts of females," the document said.

Troyer said investigators are still in the process of reviewing the images and the videos found at the Powell residence.

"We may have to identify additional victims, unfortunately," he said.

Steve was booked into the Pierce County Jail on Thursday night. Josh Powell's two children were taken into protective custody.

Susan Powell, a native of Puyallup who later moved to Utah, was 28 when she was reported missing after she failed to show up for her stockbroker job in December 2009.

Her husband, Josh Powell, said he last saw his wife before he left with their two boys, ages 2 and 4, to go on a midnight camping trip in freezing temperatures on the Pony Express Trail, about 80 miles west of Salt Lake City.

Police have said that Josh is the only person of interest in the case, although he's never been arrested or charged. Josh moved back to Puyallup with his young sons after Susan disappeared.

During an interview with ABC News, Steve admitted he had feelings for his daughter-in-law.

"Susan was very sexual with me. She was very flirtatious. I mean, I'm her father-in-law, and she would do a lot of things that, um, she did it. ... We interacted in a lot of sexual ways because Susan enjoys doing that."

Asked if he was in love with Susan, Steve said, "That's pretty likely, yeah, I think so, and there's no question in my mind that the feelings were mutual."

Earlier this month, cadaver dogs led investigators to a site just off a dirt road near the base of Topaz Mountain in Utah. Searchers excavated at the spot where the dogs had indicated there might be human remains. No remains were found, but police did discover charred wood chips that will be examined by a forensics expert.

Steve Powell is scheduled to be arraigned Friday afternoon in Pierce County Superior Court.